Some top cereals aimed at us kids are 50 per cent sugar

Some top cereals aimed at us kids are 50 per cent sugar

Based on nutritional value, a US consumer group found that 23 of the top 27 processed breakfast cereals marketed to children rated only good to fair, and that two of them, Kellogg's Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp made by Kraft Foods Inc contained more than 50 per cent sugar by weight, while another nine were at least 40 per cent sugar, as much as in a glazed doughnut from Dunkin' Donuts.

The four processed cereals targeted at kids that scored very good in Comsumer Reports' own rating system were Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios (all made by General Mills), and Life (from Quaker Oats). These scored high because they were relatively low in sugar and high in dietary fiber, the two most important categories in the rating system. Top of the list was Cheerios, which contains 1 gram of sugar and 3 grams of fiber per suggested serving.

The products were rated according to their label information (as opposed to being tested in the laboratory).

Consumer Reports is part of Consumers Union, a 70-year old independent, nonprofit US consumer organization. They estimate that some 229 million advertising dollars are spent every year in the US marketing sugary cereals to children. But oddly enough, it is adults who consume most of them. The consumer organization said about 58 per cent of the people who eat the cereals are over 18.

However, high sugar is not the only issue that concerns the consumer watchdog. Although Kellogg's Rice Krispies has only 4 grams of sugar per serving, it only earned a Fair rating because it was higher in sodium and had zero dietary fiber. This contasted with Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size which earned a Good because although it had 12 grams of sugar per serving, it had a "hefty" 6 grams of fiber and was very low in sodium.

Another area of concern is how much do children actually eat? The serving suggestion on the label is misleading because they don't follow that guideline themselves. The consumer group studied 91 children aged 6 to 16 and observed them pouring their cereal. They found that on average, they gave themselves about 50 to 65 per cent more cereal than the serving suggestion for 3 of the 4 cereals tested.

This means that if the children were to eat all the Frosted Flakes they put in their bowl, they would be eating about 18 grams of sugar per serving, and this sugar would have been mostly added during food processing, which goes against the US Department of Agriculture guidelines for a healthy diet.

Kix was the only cereal where the kids poured themselves an amount that was closer to the recommended serving. Because they are puffed corn balls, they are very light and the 1.25 cup serving size is larger than that recommended by most of the other cereals.

The United States Department of Agriculture guidelines describe a healthy diet for children over 2 years of age and adults as one that:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
By added sugar they mean any sugar added during food processing, so it would seem that many of the top cereals reviewed in Comsumer Reports would fail this guideline requirement on two counts: they contain a lot of added sugar and they are not whole grains.

Click here for more information on how to get the "most nutrition out of your calories" (from, USDA).

Source: Comsumer Reports, USDA.

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